Photo: Paul McGowan
Rishi Sunak’s tenure in office has carried on where the hapless Liz Truss left off. Within weeks of taking office Tory Chair Nadhim Zahawi was forced to resign for tax evasion whilst Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sunak initially refused to accept there were any problems until he was forced to take action.
Now his government is faced with endless other corruption scandals: Dominic Raab is mired in serious bullying complaints from over ten senior civil servants which are supposedly being investigated, whilst Boris Johnson has reappeared yet again facing more allegations of cronyism, this time around the appointment of BBC Chairman, Richard Sharp, who stands accused of securing a huge loan of around £800,000 for Johnson.
Apparently there is only Sharp and Johnson who can see nothing wrong with that! Even Liz Truss has reappeared in the media claiming she was sabotaged by ‘the left wing establishment’ and suggested her tax cutting agenda still commands huge support in the Tory Party!
Sunak has been forced into an early cabinet reshuffle which has already run into the buffers. He was forced to disown the public comments of his new Deputy Chair, Lee Anderson, who supports the return of the death penalty, has attacked asylum seekers and those who are forced to use food banks. Sunak now faces the possible rebellion of up to 100 Tory MPs, egged on by Johnson, against any watering down of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This ongoing parliamentary farce reveals a party and government which is riven with internal factions and completely out of touch. Truss supporters have organised themselves into a new faction, the Conservative Growth Group. There are the hard core Brexiteers, the ‘Red Wall’ faction, the Boris mourners, the traditional establishment “One Nation” Tories and the hard right.
Despite promising ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability’, Sunak’s government is paralysed by internal dissent with the hard right faction in the ascendancy whilst corruption scandals are around every corner. No wonder in a recent opinion poll commissioned by the Daily Telegraph, the Tories come in third lagging behind the SNP!
Just like the US Republican Party, which has been captured by Trump loyalists, the Tories are trying to cling onto power by launching ‘culture wars’ against the most downtrodden in society, in order to sow division and bigotry. Their attack on trans rights and the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform has set the tone for what is to come.
They continue to attack what they call the ‘boat people’ who are being disgracefully scapegoated, resulting in violent far right attacks on hotels which are housing asylum seekers. And of course, their ongoing favourite target, ‘mindless militant strikers’, continue to be vilified for holding patients, the travelling public and parents of school children to ransom. These tactics reflect a mean-minded and vicious government which is in a profound crisis but, like a cornered wounded animal, remains hugely dangerous.
The Tories’ failure to make any ground with these attacks is grounded in the multiple crises they fail to address, but which preoccupy the lives of ordinary working people. Britain is now mired in an economic downturn. Last December, supposedly the month when consumer spending accelerates, growth fell by 0.5%. Britain remains in the grip of stagflation, meaning the economy stagnates whilst prices rise.
Food costs rose by over 17% this year and in April, as they remove the energy price cap, energy prices are set to rise by 40%, taking the average bill to around £3,000. Britain’s trade deficit with the EU widened to its highest level since records began which will make prices rise even faster. We are being promised that 2023 will be ‘tough’ but the Tories claim we cannot have wage rises because they will lead to inflation!
Tories waging class war
This hasn’t stopped Executive pay going through the roof. Chief Executives now earn 119 times more than the average worker. Shell announced profits of £32 billion, the largest bonanza in their 115-year history, but paid no windfall tax last year! BP turned in a similar profit margin of £23 billion and electricity companies raked in a profit of £7 billion. Yet over 1 million different people had their energy supply disconnected last year.
The accusation that wage claims are excessive is just not chiming with everyday reality for the vast majority of ordinary working people. By defending these companies and their profits, whilst attacking striking workers and oppressed minorities, the Tories expose themselves for what they are: a self-entitled rich clique which has reached its ‘sell by’ date.
On top of all this, public services remain in freefall, typified by the huge crisis in the NHS where there are 135,000 staff vacancies and waiting lists have exceeded 7 million. People are being warned not to go to hospital in some parts of the country due to rising waiting times, and patients are dying in the back of ambulances. Britain’s infrastructure is grinding to a halt, especially on the Northern railways, where one third of journeys were cancelled in the last three months. While house prices rocket, including the rented market, nearly 10 million people live in bad housing, including 3.2 million children.
Our daily experience is that Britain is truly broken, largely down to the last 13 years of Tory mismanagement, as well as capitalism’s gross mismanagement of its system in Britain.
Strike to bring down this government!
However, Sunak and his government’s departure is not automatic. They can cling onto power and continue to inflict damage until they are flung out of the door. Starmer’s Labour continue to poke fun at the Tories and play their usual parliamentary games, but will not commit to supporting striking workers who are on the frontline of extremely important struggles grappling with the cost of living crisis.
Nor can Starmer come up with the kind of radical changes necessary to help millions of struggling families such as a living wage, immediate nationalisation of the utilities, huge investment in public services and a crash council house building programme. Labour cannot even commit to imposing a long term windfall tax on the energy companies, arguing that it is not the right time to be putting up taxes. While fighting for an end to Tory rule, our movement must also be prepared to continue the struggle under an incoming Starmer-led Labour government.
The working class is crying out for an end to this corrupt government. Socialist Alternative is calling for an immediate campaign of mass action to force them out of office. The strike wave continues to gather momentum with teachers and very soon junior doctors joining the fray. Firefighters secured both a massive mandate for action and, as a result, an improved pay offer, which has set the bar for how future struggles can play out. 15 March, Jeremy Hunt’s Budget Day, will be a key date for the next wave of union mobilisations, hot on the heels of the successful strikes of 1 February.
All unions with strike mandates must call for coordinated action on that day, to be followed by further coordinated escalation to bring massive pressure bearing down on this hated government.
This should begin with the teachers union, the NEU, announcing further strike action after 15 March, and calling on other unions to join them, including the health unions. The vote by the posties’ union, the CWU, to rejoin strike action will help propel momentum. Sunak can be forced out of power and workers hold the key. Let’s make 2023 the year we finally get rid of the Tories!
• We need a a one day general strike on 15 March! Health unions and private sector struggles must coordinate action with other sectors to bring Westminster to a halt!
• Escalate and coordinate further strike action into the Spring! For a week of coordinated strikes following 15 March, with demonstrations in towns and cities around the UK.
• Force Sunak and his hated Tory government out of office!